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Mayo turn over a new leaf

Sport

A NEW ORDER Mayo’s Eoghan McLaughlin goes past Galway’s Paul Kelly of during Sunday’s Connacht SFC Final at Pearse Stadium. Pic: Sportsfile

Talking Tactics
Billy Joe Padden

I FELT a bit drained myself on Sunday evening after watching the Connacht Final, so I can only imagine how the Mayo players felt after playing for five weeks in a row.
I think the fact that it was a fifth game in 28 days had a big bearing on the Mayo performance, but the way they fought to the end and hung on was admirable.
It was something to be really proud of.
The most important thing in a Connacht Final against your biggest rivals is to win.
We’d have all taken a one point victory on Sunday morning, especially considering all the football that Mayo have played over the last five weeks. And considering that Shane Walsh and Damien Comer both played, and that Mayo weren’t at their best.
It’s great now that Mayo are going to get three weeks to regroup and refocus, get a bit of rest and hopefully stay safe.
We have to congratulate them, it’s a great achievement.
I think Mayo have dealt well with the disappointment of relegation; James Horan, the coaches, and the senior players deserve credit for that. Because they’ve been able to put that to one side and focus on the championship.
They’ve won three games away from home, beating Roscommon and Galway along the way to winning a first Connacht title in five years, and had to do it in extremely difficult circumstances. You can’t ask for anything more than that.
There are aspects of Mayo’s performance that need to be addressed before an All-Ireland semi-final, and I have no doubt that James Horan will use that to keep their feet on the ground. But the players will know there is plenty of room for improvement too.
I’m delighted for the lads who won their first Connacht medals. So many of them had key contributions in their first provincial title win and that’s hugely positive for their careers.
It’s vindication too for James Horan who persisted with them.
I thought Aidan O’Shea played really well on Sunday, especially in the closing stages when Mayo needed him. He led like a captain should around the middle of the field.
In the first half you saw some bad decisions made by Mayo, some wayward shooting and poor shot selection. They also seemed to be operating with the wrong game-plan for a while.
I would put a lot of that down to fatigue.
It would have been a much simpler game if Mayo had been able to take Cillian O’Connor’s early goal chance or even Eoghan McLaughlin’s late opportunity.
They were two good saves by Bernard Power in the Galway goal, but I think McLaughlin will know in hindsight that he should have drawn the defender and passed the ball to Cillian.
But McLaughlin was great in the last ten minutes; he contributed so much, including the cynical foul on Seán Kelly which was absolutely necessary at the time.
Do I feel sorry for Galway being on the wrong side of a tackle like that? Well, considering the way they played the game over the last three or four years, absolutely not.
They’ve been cynical when they needed to be over the last couple of seasons as well.
There’s been a lot of talk about the Mayo mistakes and the wides since the game ended.
And there’s no doubt that on another day they would have cost them. But I’m in no doubt what the platform was for them winning the game — their ability to get turnovers.
The amount of times that Mayo were able to engineer turnovers in one-on-one situations through the quality of their tackling was huge. You had Oisin Mullin, Chris Barrett, Lee Keegan, Paddy Durcan and Matthew Ruane… loads of Mayo players had key turnovers and that disrupted Galway’s rhythm in the first half.
That was the element of Mayo’s game that I felt made all the difference in the end.

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